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  • New to California

    Welcome to California― the Golden State

    With over 22,600,000 licensed drivers, California has very strict DMV laws making it important to know what you need to do before you begin exploring your new home.

    What You Need to Know about Driving in California

    The state gives you 10 days to obtain a new license and 20 days to register your vehicle. Your vehicle needs to meet smog check qualifications and car insurance requirements before it can be registered.

    California State Driver’s License and IDs

    Because you only have 10 days to apply for a license or an ID, your best bet is to make an appointment with one of the California DMV offices. The rules for getting a license are different for those 18 and over and those under 18.

    To apply for your new license, there are a few things you will need:

    • Social Security number.
    • Your valid out-of-state driver's license.
    • Proof of your true full name.
    • Proof of your birth date and legal presence.
    • Driver License or Identification Card application (Form DL-44). This form cannot be downloaded as original signatures and a barcode are needed to meet legal requirements. You may request a DL-44 by calling (800) 777-0133, or pick one up in person from any DMV office.
    • Payment to cover the $33 license fee. CA DMV Offices accept cash, checks, money orders and ATM/debit cards.
    • Just Need a CA ID?

      You can apply for a California ID card so you can board a plane, enjoy the nightlife and treat yourself to senior citizen discounts. California offers two types of ID cards:

      • Regular ID that’s valid for 6 years.
      • Residents 62 years old and older can obtain a senior card that’s valid for 10 years.

      Auto Insurance Coverage in California

      California car insurance requirements are similar to most other states but it’s important to know them before you register your vehicle. In order to drive in California your vehicle must meet minimum required coverage. Bring an extra copy of your proof of insurance when you visit the California DMV as they may keep a copy.

    California Smog Check

    New residents of California are required to smog check their vehicles. Some areas require a recheck every 2 years while other vehicles are exempt.

    Could your vehicle be exempt? The following vehicles do not require a smog check:

    • Hybrid
    • Gasoline powered, 1975 model or older
    • Diesel powered, 1997 model and older or with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 pounds
    • Electric
    • Natural gas powered with a GVWR rating of more than 14,000 pounds
    • Motorcycle
    • Trailer

    Registering Your Vehicle in California

    It is important to register your vehicle within 20 days of establishing residency in California. If you do not register your operational vehicle with 20 days you could face penalties.

    To register your out-of-state vehicle in California you need to have the following:

    • Valid out-of-state certificate of title (required for change of ownership).
    • Out-of-state registration certificate (usually not required if the title is available).
    • Vehicle verification by an authorized DMV employee, member of law enforcement or a licensed vehicle verifier. The easiest way is to bring your vehicle to your local DMV for verification of the vehicle's identification number (VIN).
    • Commercial vehicles, including pickups, may require a weight certificate.*
    • California smog certificate.
    • Payment for registration fees. Fees vary based upon a number of factors. Use the Online Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator to get an estimate.

    Additional requirements if a transfer of ownership has occurred:

    * Trucks or pickups may require a Declaration of Gross Vehicle/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (REG 4008)

    Changing to a California Address

    When applying for a new California driver’s license or ID, your proof of residency should be your current California address. Once this is entered into the California DMV records, no further action is needed. If you change your address then you will need to contact the DMV within 10 days to update their records. Learn more about California Change of Address.

    Register to Vote in California

    California makes it easy to update your voter registration. You can register to vote when applying for a driver's license or ID card at your local California DMV office. Or go onto the Secretary of State website and register there.

    Military Personnel Stationed in California

    Active duty military personnel and their spouses stationed in California are considered nonresidents. A nonresident may keep the tags, license and registration from their home state provided they remain current and valid.

    You are required to obtain a smog certificate as it is required on ALL vehicles in California.

    Military personnel who are licensed residents of California, and stationed here, are required to maintain a valid California license, and vehicle registration, tags, smog and insurance.

    Read more on our Military Drivers page.

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